Tighter public policy – reaction to lack of resources
On February 26th, at the Council for Business Development meeting President Lukashenko said that he would persecute any attempts by businesses to participate in politics.
Lack of human and financial resources forces President Lukashenko to tighten his policy towards business and government as well as the internal governmental policies. However, neither nomenclature, nor business yet show any signs of opposition to the ruling group.
Lukashenka’s harsh statements are a forced reaction to the lack of resources in the Belarusian economy. He send a warning not only to businesses, but to the government too: on March 1st he threatened to sack all those who failed to fulfill the ambitious plan for economic growth in 2013. In particular, the President pointed that the government’s assessment of investments in the economic modernization were overestimated by 25% and demanded spending cuts.
This behavior is typical of Alexander Lukashenko as he is definitely preparing for the next presidential election in 2015, therefore he tightens both, the internal discipline in the nomenclature and business elites (threating of reprisals), and the voters’ trust (by usual populist and indicative devastating critique of bureaucracy).
However, it should be noted that the President is not only limited in financial resources, but also lack trust to his assistants who are responsible for monitoring compliance with his orders. The most striking example is the case of the former head of the National Bank, 72-year old Peter Prokopovich, who in the last few months was empowered as Deputy Prime Minister, appointed responsible for the implementation of the industrial modernization programme, as well as the Representative of Belarus to the Eurasian Economic Commission, and, finally, as Chairman of the Board in the Business Development Council.
Thus, President Lukashenko’s harsh statements should be regarded as a demonstration of power, and as an attempt to compensate for an acute shortage of financial and human resources in the government. At the same time, neither the President’s environment, nor the Belarusian business show interest in exploiting the government’s weaknesses. Law enforcement agencies remain under the President’s control and yet effectively neutralize all the disloyalty manifestations.
President Lukashenka continues to rotate staff and rejuvenate heads of departments and universities following new appointments in regional administrations. Apparently, new Information Minister Karliukevich could somewhat relax the state policy towards the independent media and introduce technological solutions for retaining control over Belarus’ information space. New rectors could strengthen the trend for soft Belarusization in the regions and tighten the disciplinary and ideological control over the student movement in the capital.
President Lukashenka has appointed new ministers of culture and information, the new rector of the Belarusian State University and heads of three universities, assistants in the Minsk and Vitebsk regions.
The new Information Minister Karliukevich is likely to avoid controversial initiatives similar to those former Minister Ananich was famous for, however, certainly within his capacities. Nevertheless, the appointment of Belarusian-speaking writer Karliukevich could be regarded as the state’s cautious attempt to relax environment in the media field and ensure the sovereignty of national media.
The Belarusian leadership has consolidated the trend for mild Belarusization by appointing a young historian and a ‘reasonable nationalist’, Duk as the rector at the Kuleshov State University in Mogilev. Meanwhile, while choosing the head of the Belarusian State University, the president apparently had in mind the strengthening of the ideological loyalty among the teaching staff and students at the main university in order to keep the youth movement at bay. Previously, Korol was the rector of the Kupala State University in Grodno, where he held purges among the disloyal teaching staff.
The trend for the renewal of mid-ranking executives and their rejuvenation has confirmed. The age of the Culture Minister and three new rectors varies from 39 to 44 years old.